conference giveaways

How to Design Great Event Swag: A Checklist

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re at an event that’s interesting enough, but when the folks at the registration desk hand you your swag bag, you immediately feel the urge to yawn. It’s boring. It’s forgettable. And worst of all, it’s useless.

To avoid having your event fall into the same trap, you need to understand the difference between good swag and bad swag. Here's a six-point checklist, with questions to ask yourself, plus a bonus tip:

Are your giveaways…

Tailored? You wouldn’t hand out stuffed animals or graphic tees at a professional trade show, nor would you hand out tablets at an anime convention. Consider your event’s tone and style when designing your swag. What sort of people are at your event? What are their hobbies, lifestyles, and purchasing habits? What other events have they attended, and what was handed out at those?

Boring? Keychains, pens, flash drives, and phone cases are completely forgettable. Great swag stands apart from the other conference handouts.

Easy to transport? No one wants to haul around an armload of books or an awkwardly-shaped, inflexible bag. Make sure your swag is easy for guests to tote with them when they head home, or your giveaways will be filling up the landfill in your conference location.

Low-key in terms of branding? No one wants to wear a shirt or carry around a tote bag that’s emblazoned with a garish logo. Keep your branding simple and understated.

Good quality? If you look at events like the TED Talk conference, they hand out high-end electronics like smartphones. While you don’t necessarily need to break the bank, neither should you cheap out. Consider the materials, the workmanship, and the design. If you’re not giving away something that reflects your organization’s values, maybe you shouldn’t give it.

Functional? If you don’t want guests to toss your swag after the conference is done, make it useable.

Bonus Tip: Order well in advance. You don’t want to be scrambling to get everything together right before your conference. Your swag should be ready to go at least a month in advance—so don’t forget to account for shipping time.

Brad Wayland is chief strategy officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.

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